When love hurts: S'porean shares her tale of domestic abuse

The verbal tirades, the insults and put-­downs started shortly after the birth of their first daughter.

"I never lost the weight I put on during pregnancy and he made snide remarks about the 23kg," communications manager Rachel Chung, 39, says.

When she called him out for being insensitive, he moved on to using profanities, eventually "graduating" to being violent.

"He shoved me just to make a point, and that soon escalated to slapping and punching," she adds.

This went on for eight years.

"(It occurred) whenever I disagreed with him or he couldn't out-talk me in an argument," Ms Chung says. "It started with him pushing me to shut me up, shoving me against walls. That escalated to him kicking and using his fists."

The couple met at a group outing with mutual friends and were married a year later. He is 11 years older than her and disliked it when she disagreed with him.

The issue of domestic violence has been hogging headlines after a tape leaked of Baltimore Ravens' American football player Ray Rice punching and knocking out his then-fiancee Janay Palmer during an argument. She married him months after the incident.

In the ensuing fracas, Rice was thrown out of the team. But people started asking questions about his wife, including why she married him.

Social media has since been flooded with people using the hashtag #WhyIStayed.

It has been hailed as the "Hashtag of 2014", and serves to draw attention to the real and complex reasons why people stay on in abusive relationships.

Some of the heartbreaking posts include statements like "because I thought no other man could love me with all of my insecurities", "he made me believe I was nothing without him" and "I didn't have any bruises. Not all abuse shows that easily".

A corollary hashtag #WhyILeft has also emerged in recent weeks.

In Singapore, it was reported in January that specialist centres dealing with family violence have seen a rise in cases here.

The three specialist centres - Pave, Trans Safe Centre and Care Corner Project StART - handled 2,362 cases in 2012, a 26 per cent rise from the year before. While they include all sorts of violence, including those against the elderly and children, the centres reportedly said they were expecting more cases.

In another article, it was reported that the number of personal protection orders given has risen from 2,019 in 1997 to 3,073 in 2012.

For Ms Chung, she too felt compelled to stay on at one time.

"I was trying to make the marriage work for the kids' sake. Also, I wasn't able to buy a house on my own, given the housing laws back then," she tells The New Paper on Sunday.

She says he would apologise, "but not in the manner of promising not to do it again".

"Rather, he would ask me not to provoke him again, saying that he really didn't want to do it."

She adds that what was most disturbing was "the dilemma of changing who I was, to conform to what he expected".

"As long as I obeyed and conformed to his expectations, he was loving and charming," she says.

Ms Chung not only sustained head and back injuries over the years, she also struggled with self-doubt and self-worth.

She gathered up the courage to leave him in 2006 only when her elder daughter saw the abuse.

"That was the only time - and the last time - she saw it. I figured then that being a mother who is not afraid to make a stand or speak up is much better than giving her a repressed mother and a father who cannot handle strong women," Ms Chung says.

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